theguide - Imagine yourself reclining lazily in a soft white chair in an airy restaurant in the south of France, the curve of a crystal wine glass resting in the space between your thumb and index finger, a plate of golden beet salad in front of you. Blink. You're not in St. Tropez, you're in Beverly Hills at a new Mediterranean restaurant called Villa Blanca.
"The only thing we're missing outside is the ocean," says co-owner Lisa Vanderpump Todd about her latest project, which has been open for nearly five weeks. Todd, who designed the space herself, tried to conjure the feel of a restaurant she favors in France called L'Escale.
Indoor melts into outdoor via a bank of open glass doors at the restaurant's front. Layered white tablecloths, white chairs, thick-cut white stone wall hangings, a busy bar, plush cushioned benches topped with overstuffed pillows and thoughtful flower arrangements come together to create a general feeling of escape.
The menu, created by Todd and chef Francis Dimitrius, traffics in pan-Mediterranean cuisine, with a healthy dash of Asian fare tossed in for good measure. (Dimitrius formerly worked at Koi.)
Tender, broiled black cod brushed with a sweet and salty miso glaze beside a fluffy pile of Parmesan polenta; pepper-crusted Ahi tuna with a pomegranate-pink center, sliced and served with a side of chopped asparagus and wild mushrooms; buttery beef carpaccio drizzled with a tangy white truffle vinaigrette; spaghetti Lolita tossed with shredded chicken, toasted pine nuts and a light white wine sauce; and a refreshingly light Champagne sorbet are among the kitchen's many offerings.
"I wanted to bring a different energy to Beverly Hills," says Todd, who, with her husband, Ken, owns SUR in West Hollywood as well as more than 20 restaurants and clubs in London. "There are lots of Italian restaurants in the area so I wanted to do something a bit more eclectic." Villa Blanca itself is actually located in the shell of the old Italian favorite, Trilussa.
For the moment, it seems Todd has hit on a formula that is working for the area.
The place is packed for dinner and lunch and is particularly energetic during happy hour when it attracts young professionals from CAA and William Morris.
The bar offers a wide variety of specialty cocktails, including chocolate martinis and slightly sweet mint juleps, but its real draw is the intriguingly complex sangria. Offered in both white and red, and chock full of fresh fruit, it's the perfect summer drink.
The service is straightforward, relaxed and attitude-free, making the restaurant feel more like a neighborhood destination than a hoity-toity place to head on special occasions only. And that's just how Todd wants to keep it.
"I've got quite a captive audience in Beverly Hills," she says. "Some people will eat here four or five times a week, so I strive to keep things interesting."